Dark and Stormy Knights
Anthology edited by P.N Elrod
Published 2010 357 pages
Summary (from the press release)
It was a dark and stormy knight, and nine dark defenders embarked upon a most perilous quest…
They’re the shadowy defenders of humanity – modern day knights committing the darkest of deeds for all the right reasons. In this all-star collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors bring us thrilling, all-new stories of supernatural knights that are brimming with magic mystery and mayhem.
An unlikely hero John Marcone goes head-to-head with a cantrev lord in Jim Butcher’s Even Hand. Kate Daniels is called upon for bodyguard duty to protect Saimen, a shifter she trusts less than the enemy in Ilona Andrews’ A Questionable Client. At all costs, Cormac must stop a vicious werewolf before it attacks again on the next full moon in Carrie Vaughn’s God’s Creatures. And in Vicki Pettersson’s Shifting Star, Skamar reluctantly enlists the aid of her frustratingly sexy neighbour when she takes on a vengeful creature kidnapping young girls.
Includes stories from:
- Ilona Andrews
- Jim Butcher
- Shannon K. Butcher
- Rachel Caine
- P.N. Elrod
- Deidre Knight
- Vicki Pettersson
- Lilith Saintcrow
- Carrie Vaughn
P.N. Elrod (author of the Vampire Files books and editor of many a fantasy anthology) does another great job of pulling together an urban fantasy anthology around the central theme of dark knights – those heroic men (and women) who have to make some stark choices while battling the forces of evil. This was never going to be a tough sell and with some of the UF genre’s most popular authors contributing it was pretty much guaranteed to be good from the beginning.
Whatever the credentials of the editor and the anthology contributors, in any collection of short stories there is always a disparity of quality – there has never been a collection yet that I’ve rated 5 stars as a whole. Dark and Stormy Knights is no different to other anthologies in that regard – some of the stories are 5 star gems while others are enjoyable bits of fluff that are forgotten as soon as they’re finished. However, there aren’t any bad stories here, so assuming you like urban fantasy (and really, what are you doing here if you don’t?) personal taste and established series loyalties will probably dictate which stories are you rate and whether you think the collection is generally enjoyable or completely brilliant.
Here are my favourites: “A Questionable Client” by Ilona Andrews (has that bestselling husband and wife writing team ever written a bad story?) is set in the established Kate Daniels world. Timeline wise this story takes us back to when she first meet Saimen – the successful, wealthy freelance mage who frequently crops up in later Kate Daniels story instalments, alternatively to help her or to be a thorn in her side. In this story Kate is given the job of being Saimen’s bodyguard, a task that would be easier if he hadn’t stolen a magical artefact that an entire clan of magic users wanted back. The story is exciting, with no shortage of kick-ass action and plenty of fantasy thrills. A five star winner whatever way you look at it.
“Even Hand” is set in Jim Butcher’s popular Dresden Files world but deviates from Butcher’s usual form in so much as that Harry Dresden doesn’t actually make an appearance in the story. Instead the story is narrated by arch-villain, John Marcone (who’s actually quite likeable when he’s not going head-to-head with Harry Dresden.) Marcone isn’t troubled by any of Dresden’s finer scruples, so getting down and dirty with murder and mayhem is pretty much all in a day’s work for him. Marcone may be only human but there is no shortage of magic and fantasy action in this story. Even Hand works well as a self-contained short story – you don’t have to have read previous Dresden Files stories to enjoy this but Dresden Files fans should appreciate the change of narrator which gives insight into Marcone’s world and things Harry would never know – 5 stars.
“Rookwood & Mrs King” is an all-new story from Lilith Saintcrow. The story is very vampire centric and features an unusual kind of vampire hunter trying to save the life and soul of Mrs King a well-to-do housewife, plagued by an undead husband. Exciting and unexpected, with a twisty plot and told in a noir style that really works well, this short story doesn’t fail to deliver the goods. 5 stars.
Other stories worthy of note were “God’s Creatures” by Carrie Vaughn. This story follows Cormac during his werewolf hunting days, as he unflinchingly hunts a rogue werewolf though a small town. Carrie Vaughn’s writing is usually more sympathetic towards the werewolves so this story comes as a bit of a shocker, with Cormac showing no sympathy. I also liked “Dark Lady” by P.N. Elrod which features her 1930’s vampire detective Jack Fleming, a ghost and some dodgy Mob business. Both are 4 star stories.
Rachel Caine gives readers a crotchety old woman as the knight in her story and although I liked the originality of the story I didn’t really take to the wholesale extermination of dragons (even if they are crafty and evil – they’re still endangered.) The rest of the collection is enjoyable enough but didn’t really grab me as much as the aforementioned stories.
Rated somewhere between better than average and good, Dark and Stormy Knights is more than capable of whiling away a few hours of a dark and stormy night, so if you are a fan of any of the contributing authors it’s well worth checking out.
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